Bloody January: 5 massacres in 8 years claimed 200 lives

Srinagar: The month of January is known as the month of massacres in Kashmir. In eight years starting 1990, as many as five major massacres left around 200 persons dead and property worth crores in ruins.

Gawkadal Massacre
On January 19, 1990 Jag Mohan took charge as Governor of the state. Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah resigned in protest and the state came under governor’s rule. This was Jag Mohan’s second term as governor. Earlier he had dethroned Dr Farooq and installed his brother-in-law, Ghulam Muhammad Shah as the Chief Minister. Then the state came under governor’s rule for a brief spell. Jag Mohan constructed some roads that won him a lot of good will. He was honoured at the abode of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Wali at Chrar-e-Sharief. This perhaps was the reason for his appointment as governor for the second time. But Kashmir had changed and Jag Mohan had to flee from Kashmir in five months. On January 20 he addressed the gullible Kashmiris from Doordarshan.
Jag Mohan’s speech was highly provocative. He said: “I will not take any salary. I will just take Rs 1000 to meet my personal expenses. I promise you a clean administration. If anybody creates a law and order problem, meray hatoon say amun ka pata khisak jaye ga (the cards of peace I am carrying will slip away from my hands). It was a clear warning. “Behave or I teach you a lesson”, he conveyed in strong words. In less than twenty-four hours the threat was carried out.
On January 21, 1990 at least fifty persons got killed on the spot when CRPF men opened indiscriminate fire on a peaceful procession near Badiyar, Srinagar. Around 250 persons sustained injuries.
The procession was marching towards Chotta Bazar to express solidarity with the people where the CRPF had molested women a day earlier during a search operation.

Handwara massacre
Four days after the Gaw Kadal massacre, twenty-five persons fell to bullets on January 25, 1990 at Handwara. According to eyewitnesses people in large numbers marched towards the main town.
“It was all peaceful. People hoisted green flags amid pro-freedom slogans. Slogans against Jagmohan were also raised. Nazir Ahmed Mir, a survivor said:
“Suddenly BSF troopers in a 407- TATA vehicle bearing registration number HVN-7717 appeared and resorted to indiscriminate firing on protesters near the police station without provocation. Some people who escaped and entered into the house of a local politician to save their lives were shot dead by his guards.” According to him 25 persons were killed and dozens sustained injuries.
The status of the case registered by the police 20 years back is unknown.
A worn out FIR copy of the case lies in police station Handwara which only carries the state government and BSF’s version and has no mention about killings of the innocent.
The FIR stated that the protestors who were in thousands assembled from villages were raising provocative slogans and stoned and torched the BSF Tata 407 carrying eatables and also set Dak Banglow Handwara on fire.

Sopore massacre
On January 6, 1993 militants opened fire on Border security force (BSF) personnel at Baba Yusuf Lane in the apple town Sopore. It is believed that the BSF sustained some fatal casualties. Angered, they ran amuck and opened indiscriminate fire on innocent civilians. They also torched the entire market.
The authorities initially denied the allegations saying the killings took place during cross fire between the militants and the BSF. However, a judicial enquiry was later initiated. A few BSF soldiers were also suspended.
According to official data 250 shops and 50 houses were torched and 57 persons fell to bullets.
After seventeen years of the massacre, a budding journalist Noorul Haq happened to meet some of the killers at Mewat Haryana. A discussion ensued.
“After some time I don’t know what happened to them, they felt guilty. They offered me a place to sit and narrated the whole story of 6th January 1993.
Kid, it was after when some ‘terrorists’ fired on BSF and one of our soldiers got killed and even they took his gun away. Then our ‘commander’ gave us orders, who was given orders by his seniors, to kill all and burn down the Sopore town as a war tactics and revenge the killing. “I still remember when I fired indiscriminately on a private bus full of civilians. I don’t know how many got killed. I did not know why I killed the innocents. We later burnt the bus” said one of them.

Kupwara massacre
On January 27, 1994, Kupwara witnessed another massacre. Twenty-seven persons got killed and 36 sustained injuries.
A report by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) received by the Commission separately from the J&K police and the Union Ministry has indicted troopers of 31 Med Regiment for killing civilians “without any provocation”.
“Troops deployed on duty in Kupwara town under the command of Second Lieutenant S Bakshi indiscriminately fired in Bus Stand, Kupwara, without any provocation and justification, with criminal intention,” said the CID report. However, the report said only 18 bodies were recovered.
“Several correspondence were made with the concerned unit to provide nominal roll of officers/jawans deputed for ROP duty on January 27, 1994 but despite repeated requests no response was made by the concerned unit …finally the investigation of the case was closed as untraced on April 10, 1997, on the basis of non-cooperation of army authorities,” the report said.
The case was agitated in the State human Rights Commission (SHRC) by a rights group. The rights panel had sought detailed report about the incident from the J&K police and Union Home Ministry on a petition seeking re-investigation into the case.

Wandhama massacre
The 27th night of the Holy month of Ramadhan, Muslims believe, is better than 1000months. On this night people change, their lives change and their destiny changes. But in 1998, the blessed night witnessed cold blooded massacre of scores of villagers in a small hamlet in Ganderbal. The inhuman act changed Kashmir for good.
This blessed night fell on January 25 in 1998. In the entire Valley people were offering prayers in mosques. The Wandhama mosque was also abuzz with religious fervour. Around 11.45 p.m wailing women came rushing towards the mosque. And in a jiffy, the blessed night turned into a nightmare for the villagers. Twenty-three villagers, all Kashmiri Pandits, had been massacred in cold blood by masked gunmen.
The victims had resisted migration of Pandits in early 90s and decided to stay back in the strife torn Valley. The cold blooded massacre evoked severe reaction across Kashmir. People demanded an impartial probe and severe punishment to the culprits responsible for the massacre. The age-old bonds of brotherhood and peaceful co-existence were further damaged. The abode of the saints witnessed yet another migration.
Manoj Kumar Dhar, a 16- year- old was the lone eyewitness of the gruesome incident. He said: “A group of masked gunmen barged into my house at about 11:30 pm and forced the inmates to come out.”I jumped out of the wall of my house. As soon as my father, brothers and sisters came out, the gunmen shot them one by one. They cried and begged for life but they masked men showed no mercy. A gunman spotted me and asked me to come out but I hid myself beneath a heap of saw dust stored in the house. They fired indiscriminately in the rooms and at the walls from all sides. Then they left thinking I too was dead. I could not identify them but they were speaking Urdu”, he said.
Fourteen years have passed but nobody has been brought to justice. The police have failed to identify the killers. The file has been closed and consigned to records. A few days after the incident, the police claimed recovery of a letter from the site of the massacre in which a hitherto unknown organization Intikaam-ul-Muslimoon had claimed responsibility of the massacre. The letter, according to the police, was tagged to one of the bullet riddled bodies. The police further said that the people of both the communities in Wandhama blamed the unwise shifting of an army camp from the area a few months before the massacre.